Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske ranks the league’s 32 teams. This week, the two top teams in the league stay right where they are after convincing wins on Sunday. The picture grows murkier after that, though, with plenty of movement throughout the rest of the top 10 including a quartet of teams from that group last week now on the outside looking in.
1. Los Angeles Rams (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 1
Injuries are piling up in the secondary, with Aqib Talib sidelined by a high ankle sprain and fellow CB Marcus Peters out with a strained calf muscle. No matter, the defense is deep. And Coach Sean McVay can dial up a little more offense. The game Thursday night at home against the Vikings is interesting. But at least the Rams don’t have to travel on the short week.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 3
It’s up to 13 TDs and no interceptions this season for second-year QB Patrick Mahomes. Just take the league MVP vote now and be done with it.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 8
Carson Wentz’s return wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible, either. The Eagles won Sunday with Wentz back at QB and he should only get better from here.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 2
The offense simply didn’t get it done in the 9-6 loss to the Titans, wasting another good defensive performance. It’s not fair to go back to relentlessly criticizing QB Blake Bortles. But consistency is part of the deal when the expectations are raised like this.
5. New Orleans Saints (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 14
The offense was terrific in Sunday’s OT win in Atlanta. The running game complemented the passing of Drew Brees. But at some point, the defense must do its part.
6. Carolina Panthers (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 17
The early bye for the Panthers comes after an encouraging home win over the Bengals in which the running game got revved up behind second-year RB Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers become an honorary NFC East team after their bye with consecutive games against the Giants, Redskins and Eagles.
7. Miami Dolphins (3-0) | Last Week’s Rank: 11
Will there actually be a legitimate challenger this season in the AFC East, the division won by the Patriots in nine straight seasons and 14 of the last 15? The Dolphins have their chance to send an early-season message when they travel to New England on Sunday.
8. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 18
The win at home Sunday over the Broncos was a good bounce back for the Ravens. But there’s little time to savor that, with three straight games on the road beginning this Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The Ravens already are 0-1 in the division after a Week 2 loss in Cincinnati.
9. Minnesota Vikings (1-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 5
The performance against the Bills was about as bad as it gets for a team with such seemingly legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. Maybe the tie against the Packers the week before was a factor. The Packers were terrible Sunday, also. But more is expected of this Vikings team. Much more.
10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 4
The Bengals’ positive start to the season fizzled Sunday at Carolina. The run defense fell apart and the offense became too pass-reliant. They’re in a tough stretch of the schedule, with another difficult road game this Sunday at Atlanta.
11. New England Patriots (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 7
The Patriots were 1-3 in 2001 and won the Super Bowl. They were 2-2 in 2003 and won the Super Bowl. They were 2-2 in 2014 and won the Super Bowl. They were 2-2 last season and reached the Super Bowl. Maybe the rest of the league should just give up now.
12. Chicago Bears (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 15
Yes, the Bears are good. If not for the second-half unraveling against the Packers in the opener, this team would be very much in the conversation about being in the NFC’s upper tier. The Bears have Jon Gruden to thank — Khalil Mack has been a true difference-maker.
13. Washington Redskins (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 24
The Redskins can feel better about themselves on their bye week after a crisp victory over the Packers that followed Week 2′s dispiriting loss to the Colts. The defense is playing very well and the offense should remain functional if the Redskins can keep RB Adrian Peterson relatively fresh and productive.
14. Green Bay Packers (1-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 6
The greatness of QB Aaron Rodgers usually compensates for the Packers’ deficiencies in other areas. That wasn’t the case Sunday as Rodgers limped around on his injured knee in an ugly loss at FedEx Field. If Rodgers is going to continue to play and his knee isn’t going to get much better, the team around him simply must be better. That means fewer dropped passes and penalties, a more productive running game and better defense.
15. Denver Broncos (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 9
The pass defense has had its issues and now Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are up next. That’s not a promising combination for the Broncos.
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 19
A troubling start to the season improved greatly with Monday night’s triumph in Tampa. Ben Roethlisberger put up big numbers while the defense benefited from Ryan Fitzpatrick’s first-half mistakes before barely holding on at the end.
17. Tennessee Titans (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 21
The Titans have rebounded from the opening loss at Miami with consecutive wins over the Texans and Jaguars in divisional games. QB Marcus Mariota, still recovering from an elbow injury, was forced into Sunday’s game because of Blaine Gabbert’s concussion. Mariota presumably moves back into the starting role this week with the Titans preparing to host the Eagles.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 10
Ryan Fitzpatrick gave a Nathan Peterman-esque first-half performance Monday night — just as Jameis Winston is set to return from his suspension — and he and the Buccaneers couldn’t quite make up for it in the second half.
19. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 12
The Chargers were competitive in the all-L.A. showdown but couldn’t quite keep up with the mighty offense of the Rams. Now the Chargers must get well the next two weeks at home against the Jimmy Garoppolo-less 49ers and the winless Raiders.
20. Atlanta Falcons (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 13
Matt Ryan certainly can’t be faulted for Sunday’s OT loss to the Saints after throwing five TDs, three of them to rookie WR Calvin Ridley. The Atlanta defense simply could not slow down Drew Brees and the Saints.
21. Cleveland Browns (1-1-1) | Last Week’s Rank: 25
The Baker Mayfield era begins after his dazzling debut and an uplifting victory Thursday night. He becomes the franchise’s 30th different starter at QB since 1999. Now maybe No. 31 won’t come for another decade or so. He and the Browns try for the unthinkable — a two-game winning streak — Sunday at Oakland.
22. New York Giants (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 26
Things went pretty much as scripted with the Giants getting into the win column Sunday in Houston. The offensive line gave QB Eli Manning a better chance, and he used WR Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie RB Saquon Barkley to put an end to the early-season offensive struggles.
23. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 28
The Seahawks broke through for a victory against the Cowboys. But the issues with disgruntled safety Earl Thomas remain at the forefront.
24. Detroit Lions (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 30
Matt Patricia beats Bill Belichick for his first NFL head coaching victory? The Lions have a 100-yard rusher? There were strange things happening Sunday night in Detroit.
25. Buffalo Bills (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 32
The lopsided victory at Minnesota was stunning. That’s one good way to make certain that no one retires at halftime. Josh Allen was very good in his second start. But someone needs to tell him that would-be franchise QBs shouldn’t be hurdling defenders.
26. Dallas Cowboys (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 16
The Cowboys have totaled only 41 points in three games. Coach Jason Garrett says he’s sticking with Scott Linehan as the team’s offensive play-caller. But clearly, the tension level already is high after the Cowboys blamed so many of last season’s troubles on the absence of RB Ezekiel Elliott while he was suspended.
27. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 22
The Colts hung tough before losing Sunday in Philadelphia. This team probably will struggle to get anywhere close to .500 this season. But the good news is that QB Andrew Luck appears healthy and it seems like Frank Reich will be a capable head coach.
28. New York Jets (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 23
The Browns, Bills and Cardinals must take note: There are going to be ups and downs for rookie QBs. It’s just part of the deal. You live with it. Sam Darnold has followed a good outing in his first game with two straight poor performances. He’s probably due for another good showing.
29. San Francisco 4ers (1-2) | Last Week’s Rank: 20
The torn ACL suffered by Jimmy Garoppolo is season-crushing. So much for all that optimism that surrounded the 5-0 finish to last season after Garoppolo took over at QB and then signed a big contract extension in the offseason. The Niners turn to C.J. Beathard at QB and probably revert to being the irrelevant team that they were last season before Garoppolo was inserted into the lineup.
30. Houston Texans (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 27
The preseason optimism that accompanied the returns of second-year QB Deshaun Watson and defensive star J.J. Watt has given way to the misery of a 0-3 start. There are winnable games coming up against the Colts, Cowboys and Bills. But if the Texans can’t win at home against the Giants, who can they beat?
31. Oakland Raiders (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 29
It’s going to be a long, long season for Jon Gruden and the Raiders.
32. Arizona Cardinals (0-3) | Last Week’s Rank: 31
The Josh Rosen era begins after a less-than-dazzling debut and a far-from-uplifting result Sunday. That makes this feel like a move made out of desperation, not because Rosen is considered ready. But if things work out, no one will care.
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